In 1957 Virginia Williams and six other African Americans sat in the “White Only” side of the Royal Ice Cream Company in Durham. After refusing to leave, they were arrested on trespassing charges. The sit-in took place nearly three years before the historic Greensboro sit-in on Feb. 1, 1960, at the F.W. Woolworth store and sparked a national Civil Rights movement.
On Saturday, Feb. 20, Williams and two other participants in 1960 sit-ins in Greensboro and Raleigh will share their stories at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh. Joining Williams are Dr. Herman Thomas, who organized student sit-ins that occurred in Greensboro after Feb. 1, and Barbara Woodhouse, who was arrested during a student protest at Raleigh’s Cameron Village on Feb. 12, 1960. They will take part in a panel discussion and a Q&A session following a screening of the award-winning documentary “February One: The Story of the Greensboro Four.” Rebecca Cerese, filmmaker and producer of “February One,” will join the discussion. The program is from 3 to 4:30 p.m., and admission is free.
“February One” chronicles the events of Feb. 1, 1960, when four black freshmen from the Agricultural and Technical College of North Carolina (now North Carolina A&T State University) sat down at a whites-only lunch counter in downtown Greensboro. Their actions served as a blueprint for other nonviolent civil rights protests across the South and the nation.
More information about the panel participants follows.
- Williams was the first person arrested during the protest at the Durham ice-cream parlor on June 23, 1957. The young African Americans planned the sit-in with Rev. Douglas Moore, pastor of Asbury Temple Methodist Church. The protest led to a court cast testing the legality of segregated facilities.
- Thomas, a close friend and fellow student of the four freshmen who participated in the Feb. 1 sit-in, coordinated thousands of demonstrators for sit-ins in Greensboro after Feb. 1. He was a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Recently retired, he served as vice-president for academic affairs at Shaw University in Raleigh.
- Woodhouse was a freshman at St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh when she was arrested during a sit-down protest at Raleigh’s Cameron Village shopping center on Feb. 12, 1960. Forty-three students were charged with trespassing while standing on privately owned sidewalks in front of the F.W. Woolworth store at the shopping center. Woodhouse currently resides in Virginia.
- Cerese is an award-winning filmmaker who has worked for Video Dialog Inc., a Durham-based production company, for 11 years. “February One” aired nationally on PBS in February 2005 to mark the 45th anniversary of the sit-in. The film was recently shown at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, as part of a program marking the 50th anniversary of the sit-ins. “February One” won Best Documentary at the Carolina Film and Video Festival and received the Human Rights Award at the RiverRun International Film Festival.
For more details, call 919-807-7900 or access ncmuseumofhistory.org or Facebook®. The museum is located at 5 E. Edenton St., across from the State Capitol.
The N.C. Museum of History’s hours are Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Admission is free. The museum is part of the Division of State History Museums, Office of Archives and History, an agency of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources. The department’s Web site is www.ncculture.com.